Terri Totzell is about to hang up her whistle following the completion of the 2015-2016 school term at Lewis and Clark Junior High in Wood River.
After a nearly 30-year career of classroom instruction, physical education and being a volleyball coach, Totzell will be remembered by her colleagues as a bright woman with a witty personality and passionate heart.
For LCJH teacher and volleyball coach Tiffany Falk, she is not just saying goodbye to a fellow colleague, she’s also wishing farewell to her former teacher and coach.
“She (Totzell) has taught me to live each day in the moment and with no regrets,” Falk said. “She taught me that there’s no obstacle too large or too hard that I can’t get through. Because of her I learned I could depend on those around me for guidance and help, humor and a smile are sometimes the best medicine and to never give up. She holds a very special place in my heart and my life has been forever changed as a result of her friendship.”
Totzell joined the LCJH staff in August 1988 and started the girls’ volleyball program during the 1989-90 school year. Since the program began more than 26 years ago, Totzell has recorded more than 230 wins and nine conference championships.
“Terri was the originator of the program and has been able to maintain tremendous success,” LCJH director of athletics and EA-WR girls’ soccer coach Matt Herndon said. “We are not in an easy conference and our competitors come from larger schools with very good programs. To keep that kind of presence and consistent success is outstanding. Because of her, we have a great feeder program for the high school to build from.”
Being described as funny and lighthearted in the classroom and walking through the halls at LCJH, Totzell is also seen as a woman who means business on the volleyball court.
“Totzell is stern, yet compassionate on her players,” Falk said. “She wants to see them reach their full potential and she won’t stop pushing them until they get there. She’s remained willing to learn new approaches with her coaching style and with the help of the other coaches, she’s able to implement those new ideas on the court and make our program what it is today.”
Respect is one word that fellow coaches, administrators and former players use to describe how they feel about Totzell both on and off the court.
“Mrs. Totzell is very respected by all her players,” LCJH teacher and fellow volleyball coach Julie Twichell said. “She is focused on bringing out the best in each girl. The players know that she cares about them and will do what is necessary to help them improve. I can’t begin to imagine what it is going to be like without Mrs. Totzell at LCJH.”
Players, students and co-workers aren’t the only ones affected by the many years of dedication Totzell has given over her time in the classroom. Administrators find an unwavering resource of advice and information from a staff member with one of the longest tenures.
“It’s been fantastic from an administrator’s point of view to have someone like Mrs. Totzell on staff,” LCJH Principal Heather Johnson said. “I can go to her and ask questions about the history of the school, or how something was done in the past and she can give an experienced point of view. As a teacher, she’s been fantastic; as a coach she’s been outstanding. Her accomplishments are well recognized and volleyball remains to be the most popular sport at LCJH with the largest student attendance.”
For Wood River-Hartford Superintendent Dr. Patrick Anderson, Totzell went from being a person in position of respected authority to a respected colleague.
“Mrs. Totzell was my third-grade teacher at St. Bernard’s school,” Anderson said. “She was a great teacher and a huge influence on me when I was in her class. I’ll never forget how to spell February because of her. Seeing her retire after such a long and successful career is bittersweet. I wish her all the joy that retirement can bring, but I’ll miss her immensely.”
Totzell said her days at LCJH have been a roller coaster ride throughout the years and she’s thankful to have been with a school that has looked out for her when she’s needed it most.
“I cannot say enough about the school and my colleagues,” Totzell said. “Over the last 30 years, I’ve gone through some hard times with illnesses and the death of my parents. The people in this school have always been there for me. Anytime I needed anything I’ve been met with understanding and support with no questions asked.”
On the court, volleyball will remain one of her proudest accomplishments at LCJH.
“When it comes to volleyball, I love working with the other coaches and the girls,” Totzell said. “To see them succeed and have fun is one of the best gifts they’ve given me. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the years and our teams would not have had the success we’ve had without Mrs. Twichell and Mrs. Falk beside me. I’m going to miss this.”
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